For those who missed the scant five episode of Doctor Who that aired this fall, you’re in luck. The BBC has just been released on a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD set, Doctor Who Series Seven, Part One. And for those who didn’t miss the season, you already know that these are five fantastic installments, so you might be interested as well. It will be something to tide fans over until the series returns for a longer run next year.
As series seven begins, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are getting a divorce. That’s right; the man who waited two thousand years for his love has been tossed out of the house. The Doctor (Matt Smith) is concerned when he notices, but he has other concerns, as the three have been swept up by the Daleks, who are asking for the trio’s help with their prison planet.
“Asylum of the Daleks,” the season opener, is one of the best hours of Who ever made. Not only do we get to see the Doctor’s archnemesis in a slightly different light, and get a glimpse of another aspect of their society, but we also have the Amy/Rory breakup mystery to sustain us. Toss in the introduction of Oswin (Jenna-Louise Coleman, Captain America: The First Avenger, Emmerdale), who will take over as the Doctor’s companion beginning this Christmas, and some wonderful twists, progress on a major arc involving the Doctor’s identity, and action sequences, and the season begins with a bang!
From there we move to “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” which is a truly fun romp. There is some danger, with a space pirate (David Bradley, the Harry Potter films) having hijacked a ship full of dinosaurs, which a future version of UNIT is ready to blow out of the sky. But the meat of this episode lies in the humor created when the Doctor brings together not only Rory and Amy for the outing, but also Rory’s father, Brian Williams (Mark Williams, also Harry Potter), Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele, Holby City) from ancient Egypt, and John Riddell (Rupert Graves, borrowed from Steven Moffat’s other series, Sherlock), a big game hunter from the early twentieth century. It’s these clashing personalities set among such fantastical creatures that really make this episode memorable. Plus, the most adorable triceratops ever!
Then there’s ” A Town Called Mercy,” an interesting little morality tale, that happens to be set in the Old West, and involves a cyborg. This one is arguably the least of the five episode in the set, and yet, the care with which the town is designed, and the Western genre influence, combine to make it worthy of the collection. As the Doctor would say, Stetsons are cool.
In “The Power of Three,” Brian is back (yay!). Taking place over a very long span of time, the world is slowly invaded by cubes, while Amy and Rory try to build a more normal life on Earth, and the Doctor struggles with letting them go. The highlights of this episode include seeing how much the Doctor cares for his companions, and how well he does not adapt to the type of lifestyle that they the married couple are considering. It’s a “take stock” episode, and it’s narration makes it a departure from the norm, if Doctor Who has a norm.
Finally, in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the central trio is drawn to a noir version of New York City, and River Song (Alex Kingston) makes her, sadly, only appearance in this batch. The Angels, Doctor Who‘s scariest villains, have built themselves a farm in the middle of the metropolis, and catch Rory in their trap. Can the Doctor change time to save him, or will he lose both of his best friends in one swoop? It’s a moving love story with high stakes danger and some huge developments.
Not only are these episode incredible, but the special features are pretty great, too. There’s the hour-long special, “The Science of Doctor Who,” which recently aired on BBC America. “Ayslum of the Daleks” gets a prequel, “A Town Called Mercy” has a bit of back story, and a series of minisodes called “Pond Life” seem to set up the series as a whole. Plus, there’s a feature following the cast as they visit Comic Con earlier this year. It may fall slightly short of a “Making Of,” but all the additional scenes included on this set, not appearing in the episodes, are very satisfying.
The Blu-ray itself is amazing. There are rich colors in every landscape, whether characters are on a dark spaceship, the dusty Old West, or the grey of the city. Each setting is vibrant and life-like. This isn’t even including the special effects, which are often pretty darn neat, and showcased brilliantly in HD. Sound is high quality, with the bass stepping in exactly where you want it to, and overall providing an immersive experience, without pops or static that will ruin the moment.
Fantastic episodes, great extras, and a stunning visual and auditory experience, I have no complaints at all about Doctor Who Season Seven, Part One other than that I wish it went on longer. The Blu-ray and DVD are available now.